2013-2014 Verification Changes

The 2013-2014 Financial Aid Year has begun. Students are beginning to apply for financial aid and go through all the steps involved. For a number of students each year, one of those steps is verification. New regulations for verification have taken effect for the 2013-2014 Aid Year. Read on to find out what has changed and how it might affect you.

What is Verification?

Verification is a process in which your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is selected to have the data you entered verified. Verification is primarily for the purpose of minimizing mistakes that could lead to inaccurate financial aid eligibility and to prevent fraud. Most students who must complete the verification process are selected by the Department of Education when the FAFSA is processed. The colleges to which you have submitted your FAFSA results may also select you for verification at their discretion. (Students who apply for a Nursing Student Loan are also automatically selected for verification.) The Department of Education does not reveal the criteria by which they select students’ FAFSAs for verification, but students who are eligible for a Pell Grant are more likely to be selected.

When selected for verification, the student and parents must submit additional documentation to the the college’s Financial Aid Office. The Financial Aid Administrators use the documentation to ensure the data entered on the FAFSA is accurate. If any inaccurate data is found, the Financial Aid Administrator may make corrections to the student’s FAFSA data and submit those changes back to the Department of Education. This may change the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and could potentially affect financial aid eligibility.

In previous years all students selected for verification were required to submit the same documents:

  • Student’s Federal Tax Return (or W2s if no tax return was filed).
  • Parents’ Federal Tax Return (or W2s if no tax return was filed) if the student is a dependent student.
  • Spouse’s Federal Tax Return (or W2s if no tax return was filed) if the student is a married independent student and their spouse filed separately.
  • A verification worksheet including details of the household size, number of college students, and other information.

The verification worksheet may be in a different form at each college. Though the Department of Education published an example form, college are free to customize it as long as they collect all the required data.

In the 2012-2013 Aid Year, the required documents changed slightly to require students and parents to either transfer their tax data from the IRS to the FAFSA via the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) or to submit a Tax Transcript to the college. Copies of the Federal Tax Return were no longer accepted for verification (though problems with the transition forced the Department of Education to again allow tax returns for a portion of the aid year).

Changes to Verification

For the 2013-2013 Aid Year, more significant changes to the verification process have been instituted. The changes are related to implementing customized verification. Customized verification allows the documents the student is required to submit be customized to the reason that the FAFSA was selected. Additional requirements were also added in some circumstances.

Verification Groups

In 2013-2014, students who are selected for verification will fall into one of five verification groups. Each of the verification groups requires a different set of data to be verified and therefore a different set of documents to be submitted to the college.

Group V1: Standard Verification Group

The Standard Verification Group is nearly identical to verification in 2012-2013. The same data needs to be verified as in prior years. What may change is how colleges request some of the data. They may now choose to use separate forms for some of the data that was previously collected on a single verification worksheet. Colleges have the option of continuing to use a verification worksheet to collect the data. The data that needs to be verified is:

  • Student’s Tax Data (either via the IRS DRT or by submitting a Tax Transcript)
  • Parents’ Tax Data (either via the IRS DRT or by submitting a Tax Transcript)
  • Household Size
  • Number of Students in College
  • Child Support Paid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)

Group V2: SNAP Verification Group

The SNAP Verification Group requires the college to verify the receipt of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. This group potentially benefits the student by not requiring them to submit all the verification requirements in order to verify a signal data point. This will hopefully make the verification process easier for some.

Group V3: Child Support Verification Group

The Child Support Verification Group requires the college to verify the amount of child support paid. This group potentially benefits the student by not requiring them to submit all the verification requirements in order to verify a signal data point. This will hopefully make the verification process easier for some.

Group V4: Custom Verification Group

The Custom Verification Group is the first group with brand new verification requirements. Those in the custom verification group must submit the following:

  • High School Completion documentation (most often in the form of the final high school transcript or GED). 
  • Education Purpose Statement and Photo ID

The Education Purpose Statement and Photo ID must be presented in person at the college’s Financial Aid office where the student must sign the document in the presence of a Financial Aid Administrator. If this is unfeasible, the student must get the Education Purpose Statement notarized by a licensed Notary Public and submit it along with a copy of their government issued photo ID to the college’s Financial Aid Office.

Most students can satisfy the High School completion documentation by submitting their final High School transcript to the college. A General Education Development (GED) certification may also be submitted. There are other options if the student does not have either of these, such as if the student was homeschooled. The college’s Financial Aid Office can detail the acceptable documents in a specific student’s situation.

Group V5: Aggregate Verification Group

The Aggregate Verification Group requires verification of everything from groups V1 and V4, which is all of the various verification data. The full list follows:

  • Student’s Tax Data (either via the IRS DRT or by submitting a Tax Transcript)
  • Parents’ Tax Data (either via the IRS DRT or by submitting a Tax Transcript)
  • Household Size
  • Number of Students in College
  • Child Support Paid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps)
  • High School Completion documentation (most often in the form of the final high school transcript or GED).
  • Education Purpose Statement and Photo ID

If you are selected for verification, your college will communicate which documents you need to submit and instructions for submitting them. It is important to read the instructions carefully and follow the instructions to ensure that you receive you Financial Aid package in a timely fashion. This even more important this year with new instructions and new requirements. In past years, all of the data elements required for verification were available for students and parents to submit early in the year. This allowed colleges to complete a large percentage of verifications before generating Financial Aid packages for the students. This year, particularly with the High School completion documentation, many students will not be able to submit the final document until the summer. This makes it all the more necessary to follow the college’s instructions and submit your documents in a timely manner. Please contact your college’s Financial Aid Office if you have any questions about verification or the documents required.

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